There’s something about Brian Fallon’s voice, or at least one side of Fallon’s voice, which makes you think not only must he be singing at full throttle all the time but the band around/behind him must be attacking things with the same vigour.
It’s gruff and ragged, like a man at the end of the bar at the end of the night at the end of the week who is emptying his heart out to his favourite songs on the jukebox. It’s got an edge of anger in it like a man at the end of his patience but not yet the end of his rope who is not going to let some bozo get away with yet another trickle down theory bullshit.
And the bunch of instrument-slingers keeping him company would be in denim and faded Ts, would have a half glass of beer sloshing about on the top of the amp, and would be ready to play up to and past curfew if the mood in the room is as hot as their fire.
The weird thing is that so prevalent is this idea lodged into your – and of course here I mean my – head after/despite some half a dozen Gaslight Anthem/Horrible Crowes albums I still get a little surprised when he just pitches up calmly, smoothly, quietly even.
And as he has done for much of those band albums, calm, smooth and quiet is offered a number of times on this the second full album under his own name. Does them well too.
I mean, the first track here, If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven is a bit of old school uptown soul, like Mayer Hawthorne doing Motown. Well, ok, like Motown sung by a more coarsened southern soul singer than smoothie Hawthorne ever attempts, but still.
It does mean that when he sings, in Etta James, that it’s been 20 years but at last his love is in his arms, you kinda picture a man in a suit, dropped to his knees, mopping his brow with a big white handkerchief.
However, that’s the other bit about Fallon, that if you get caught up on the – admittedly exciting and often enough pulsating – Clash-meets-E Street Band thrust of some of his earlier songs you can miss the fact they are both classically styled and as easy to consume as one of those beers sloshing on the amps.
There is no avoiding the hook, and the fun, of Come Wander With Me for example. Nor the way the keyboards here often sound like the best kind of new wave organ in the manner of Steve Nieve of the Attractions.
If Fallon’s raison d’etre sometimes appears to be finding new ways to channel Bruce Springsteen in rousing songs such as Forget Me Not, then you can tell that he comes at that with more than a working class accent and an eye for cant.
Her Majesty’s Service is half chiming British Invasion, half Jersey shore and feels as if it emanates more from the songwriting head than the righteous gut. The title track takes a soul rock form, his huskiness making a loose link to Rod Stewart as the band aims for some Bonnie & Delaney sweat. Then Watson firms up the Stewart connection, offering some hands across the water.
By the time you reach the acoustic semi-ballad which closes the album, See You On The Other Side, it may finally be dawning on you that the raucous rock is actually light-on across Sleepwalkers. That in fact, while some of the early notices for this album made reference to the Gaslight Anthem signature – and brilliant - album The ’59 Sound, this is a more nuanced exercise.
Does it matter? Not at all. There’s more than one way to make a record in the mould of, in the shadow of, a certain type of classic rock.
SPOTIFY: Listen to Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers here
APPLE MUSIC: Listen to Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers here